‘Before You Were Mine’ Carol Ann Duffy: Tusi Notes

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This tender and elemental love poem to our first and most enduring love, that of the mother and child, is to all intents and purposes, a means for Carol Ann Duffy to reconstruct, even to re-invent a past beyond the first person, ‘I’ narrator. The poet conceives the poem as a response to looking back affectionately at another spirited ‘self,’ by imaginatively animating a snapshot of her ‘carefree’ teenage mother pictured with her friends. The poem transports the ‘reader’ to this  re-conceived past, where the mother-daughter relationship and special time together opens also to the possibilities of friendship and the potential for the very creation of the poetherself.

This first person narrative is directed towards her mother, as if in doing so she will find herself in that imagined space before she ‘was.’ A space where she can now ‘co-experience’ the joys, freedoms and excitement of the young May who would later, in fact, become her mother.  In this reading of the poem I run with Duffy’s adoration for a much loved mother to the point that the ‘before you were mine’ and ‘after you were mine’ recombine; so that they loose the bounds of linear time itself, as the poet’s imagination, in this and other poems, seeks to do, and thus a kind of unity suggests itself: Before you were mine, I was yours

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